The death penalty is a highly controversial topic today, but it still exists in many countries including India, but is mostly restricted to crimes like treason and murder. This article is completely irrelevant to whether the death penalty is justified or not, we’re simply pointing out some “crimes” that were punishable by death. The method of execution be it by stoning, decapitation or burning at the stake is also irrelevant and rather morbid so we won’t say much about it either. Here is a list of things that today would be considered a misdemeanour or not a crime at all, but could still result in a head chopping in the good old days:
1) Being a Witch (Europe and North America)- Sounds weird? Well it’s true, if people suspected you of witchcraft (especially if you were a woman) you had a good chance of being burned at the stake. It’s estimated that in a 300 year period between 1450 and 1750 some 35,000 people were killed for supposedly performing sorcery. While it’s fun to point fingers at others, in India too witch hunting continues to this day. “Witches” were given a trial because obviously the witch hunters weren’t ignorant savages and after being tortured, the witches confessed to their crimes and were promptly executed, a good example was this is of poor Joan of Arc.
2) Stealing Cattle- In the American Wild West stealing cattle was a huge criminal offence punishable by death, though cattle rustlers as they were called were often lynched by a bunch of very angry ranchers.
3) Stealing Goods Valued at 5 Shillings or More- Under what is called the “Bloody Code of England” you could be executed for stealing something worth 5 shillings or more, other offences include stealing from a shop, picking pockets and writing a threatening letter. There were in fact 220 crimes punishable by death in England between 1688 and 1815.